Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
Josefina Salomon reports from Mexico fro the Washington Post:
“MEXICO CITY — Cristel woke up on the freezing floor of a tiny room in a detention center in San Diego. She was alone, dirty, hungry and exhausted. It was April. Eight days earlier, she had been arrested on the American side of the border crossing at Tijuana, where she planned to claim asylum. She had been in solitary confinement since then. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers had given her no reason for her detention.
Five years on the run had left her drained. From the floor of that San Diego cell, it seemed like she was out of options. She could not bear the thought of being forced by ICE to return to El Salvador. That would be a death sentence.
Death threats from violent gangs had chased Cristel from her native El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, up to the U.S. border. They kept her awake at night, echoing in the back of her head. In El Salvador and on her journey north, she had been bullied, threatened, robbed, beaten and raped. At one point, she had turned to sex work. She had been kidnapped and abused. She had escaped, but she still didn’t feel safe.
Cristel is not her real name. She is 25 and grew up in San Salvador. As a transgender woman, she has faced discrimination and violence nearly her entire life. My colleagues and I met Cristel half a dozen times over the last 18 months, first in San Salvador, and later at different points along her journey, as she moved toward what she hoped was salvation in the U.S.
Over time, Cristel lost weight and dark circles appeared under her eyes as fear, exhaustion and frustration took hold. Sometimes while we were talking, there would be seemingly unstoppable bursts of tears. Weeks might go by before we heard from her. Had she been hurt, or worse? The question, “What is going to happen to me?”, which she asked at every one of our meetings, became more and more urgent.\
. . . .
Starting in the 1990s, the U.S. was one of the first countries to begin admitting asylum seekers and refugees who were persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation. While the Trump administration has not sought to change U.S. asylum law, it has made it clear that it aims to decrease the overall number of refugees admitted into the country and to raise the threshold for asylum seekers’ “credible fear” of persecution as a basis for their asylum.
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of asylum claims by people from El Salvador has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. There were nearly 18,000 claims in 2016 alone. While the number of people who have secured asylum in the U.S. increased in that period, so did the number of claims that were denied, abandoned or withdrawn. Many prospective asylum seekers and analysts have said this is because of the arduous process and the harsh detention conditions asylum seekers are forced to endure. The most vulnerable, like Cristel, often have few options but return to the danger they were desperately trying to escape in the first place.
In San Diego, after first being confined to solitary, Cristel was transferred to a cell that she shared with eight men. She was kept there for a month and a half. At her hearing, when it eventually came, she was appointed a pro bono lawyer, but her claim for asylum was denied. She was transferred to another detention center in Arizona, where she was handcuffed, put on a plane and sent back to a nightmare.
. . . .
She had gone back to live at her mother’s house, but the gang found her anyway. The extortion had resumed. Every time she is late with her payments, even by a day or two, gang members beat her. “I’m exhausted of being forced to pay to live. I want to leave but there’s nowhere to go.”
Sobbing, she said, “They are going to kill me.”
Read the complete story at the link.
This is what “Trumpism” and “GOP restrictionism” are really about — turning our backs on those in the most need of protection.
One of the most disturbing things about this story is that, as noted by Solomon, the U.S. actually has been fairly routinely granting gender-based cases like this since at least the mid-1990s. See, e.g., Matter of Tobaso-Alfonso,20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990). In many U.S. Immigration Courts cases like this would routinely be granted, often with the DHS’s concurrence.
So, “Cristel” was unlucky. She got the got the wrong Court, the wrong Judge, the wrong time, and perhaps the wrong pro bono attorney — and it’s likely to cost her life! That’s not justice, and that’s not a properly functioning U.S. Immigration Court that “guarantees fairness and due process to all.” Instead, the “captive” U.S. Immigration Court is turning into a “whistle-stop on the Trump/Sessions Deportation Railroad!” That’s something of which every true American should be ashamed. We need an independent, Due Process focused U.S. Immigration Court now!
Folks, as we take a few minutes today to remember Dr. King, his vision for a better America, and his inspiring “I Have A Dream Speech,” we have to face the fact that everything Dr. King stood for is under a vicious and concerted attack, the likes of which we haven’t seen in America for approximately 50 years, by individuals elected to govern by a minority of voters in our country.
So, today, I’m offering you a “potpourri” of how and why Dr.King’s Dream has “gone south,” so to speak, and how those of us who care about social justice and due process in America can nevertheless resurrect it and move forward together for a greater and more tolerant American that celebrates the talents, contributions, and humanity of all who live here!.
On Martin Luther King’s birthday, a look back at some disquieting events in race relations in 2017.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the mountaintop and looked out over the promised land. In a powerful and prophetic speech on April 3, 1968, he told a crowd at the Mason Temple in Memphis that while there would certainly be difficult days ahead, he had no doubt that the struggle for racial justice would be successful.
“I may not get there with you,” he said. “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I am happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything.”
The following day, he was assassinated.
The intervening years have been full of steps forward and steps backward, of extraordinary changes as well as awful reminders of what has not changed. What would King have made of our first black president? What would he have thought had he seen neo-Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., so many years after his death? How would he have viewed the shooting by police of unarmed black men in cities around the country — or the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement? He would surely have heard the assertions that we have become a “post-racial” society because we elected (and reelected) Barack Obama. But would he have believed it?
This past year was not terribly heartening on the civil rights front. It was appalling enough that racist white nationalists marched in Charlottesville in August. But it was even more shocking that President Trump seemed incapable of making the most basic moral judgment about that march; instead, he said that there were some “very fine people” at the rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Racial injustices that bedeviled the country in King’s day — voter suppression, segregated schools, hate crimes — have not gone away. A report released last week by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on inequities in the funding of public schools concludes — and this should surprise no one — that students of color living in poor, segregated neighborhoods are often relegated to low-quality schools simply due to where they live. States continued in 2017 to pass laws that make it harder, rather than easier, for people of color to vote.
The Trump administration also seems determined to undo two decades of Justice Department civil rights work, cutting back on investigations into the excessive use of force and racial bias by police departments. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in March ordered a review of all existing federal consent decrees with local police departments with the possibility of dismantling them — a move that could set back police reform by many years.
Here in Los Angeles County, this statistic is telling: 40% of the estimated 57,000 homeless people — the most desperate and destitute residents of the county — are black. Yet black residents make up only 9% of the L.A. County population.
But despite bad news on several fronts, what have been heartening over the last year are the objections raised by so many people across the country.
Consider the statues of Confederate generals and slave owners that were brought down across the country. Schools and other institutions rebranded buildings that were formerly named after racists.
The Black Lives Matter movement has grown from a small street and cyber-protest group into a more potent civil rights organization focusing on changing institutions that have traditionally marginalized black people.
When football quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest, as he said, a country that oppresses black people, he was denounced by many (including Trump) but emulated by others. Kaepernick has been effectively banished from professional football but he started a movement.
Roy Moore was defeated for a Senate seat in Alabama by a surge of black voters, particularly black women. (But no sooner did he lose than Joe Arpaio — the disgraced, vehemently anti-immigrant former Arizona sheriff — announced that he is running for Senate there.)
So on what would have been King’s 89th birthday, it is clear that the United States is not yet the promised land he envisioned in the last great speech of his life. But we agree with him that it’s still possible to get there.”
See this short HuffPost video on “Why MLK’s Message Still Matters Today!”
Read about how the Arizona GOP has resurrected, and in some instances actually welcomed, “Racist Joe” Arpaio, an unapologetic anti-Hispanic bigot and convicted scofflaw. “Racist Joe” was pardoned by Trump and is now running for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Arizona GOP Senator Jeff Flake, who often has been a critic of Trump. One thing “Racist Joe’s” candidacy is doing is energizing the Latino community that successfully fought to remove him from the office of Sheriff and to have him brought to justice for his racist policies.
Spared from the threat of deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she campaigned to oust Joe Arpaio when he unsuccessfully ran for reelection as Maricopa County sheriff in 2016. She knocked on hundreds of doors in south Phoenix’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods to register voters. She made phone calls, walked on college campuses. Her message was direct, like the name of the group she worked with, Bazta Arpaio, a take on the Spanish word basta — enough Arpaio.
But now, the 85-year-old former sheriff is back and running for Senate. Sanchez, who had planned to step away from politics to focus on her studies at Grand Canyon University, is back as well, organizing once more.
“If he thinks he can come back and terrorize the entire state like he did Maricopa County, it’s not going to happen,” Sanchez, 20, said. “I’m not going to let it happen.”
Arpaio enters a crowded Republican primary and may not emerge as the party’s nominee, but his bid has already galvanized Arizona’s Latino electorate — one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing voter blocs.
Organizers like Sanchez, who thought they might sit out the midterm elections, rushed back into offices and started making calls. Social media groups that had gone dormant have resurrected with posts reminding voters that Arpaio was criminally convicted of violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
“We’ve been hearing, ‘Is it true Arpaio is back? OK, what can we do to help?’” said Montserrat Arredondo, director of One Arizona, a Phoenix nonprofit group focused on increasing Latino voter turnout. “People were living in terror when Arpaio was in office. They haven’t forgotten.”
In 2008, 796,000 Latinos were eligible to vote in the state, according to One Arizona. By 2016, that potential voting pool jumped to 1.1 million. (California tops the nation with the most Latinos eligible to vote, almost 6.9 million.)
In 2016, Latinos accounted for almost 20% of all registered voters in Arizona. Latinos make up about 30% of Arizona’s population.
. . . .
Last year, President Trump pardoned Arpaio of a criminal conviction for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. When announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Arpaio pledged his full support to the president and his policies.
On Saturday, Arpaio made his first public appearance since announcing his candidacy, attending a gathering of Maricopa County Republicans. He was unmoved when asked about the enthusiasm his candidacy has created among Latinos.
“Many of them hate me for enforcing the law,” he said. “I can’t change that. … All I know is that I have my supporters, they’re going to support who they want. I’m in this to win it though.”
Arpaio, gripping about a dozen red cardboard signs that read “We need Sheriff Joe Arpaio in DC,” walked through the crowd where he mingled with, among others, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who also are seeking the GOP Senate nomination. Overall, Arpaio was widely met with enthusiasm from attendees.
“So glad you’re back,” said a man wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat.
“It’s great to be back,” Arpaio replied.
Arpaio, who handed out business cards touting his once self-proclaimed status as “America’s toughest sheriff,” said he had no regrets from his more than two decades in office.
“Not a single one,” he said. “I spoke my mind and did what needed to be done and would do it the same in a minute.”
In an interview, Arpaio, who still insists he has “evidence” that former President Obama’s birth certificate is forged, a rumor repeatedly shown to be false, did not lay out specific policy platforms, only insisting he’ll get things done in Washington.
During his tenure as sheriff, repeated court rulings against his office for civil rights violations cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”
Read the complete story at the link.
Professor George Yancy of Emory University writing in the NY Times asks “Will America Choose King’s Dream Or Trump’s Nightmare?”
“Let’s come clean: President Trump is a white racist! Over the past few days, many have written, spoken and shouted this fact, but it needs repeating: President Trump is a white racist! Why repeat it? Because many have been under the grand illusion that America is a “post-racial” nation, a beautiful melting pot where racism is only sporadic, infrequent and expressed by those on the margins of an otherwise mainstream and “decent” America. That’s a lie; a blatant one at that. We must face a very horrible truth. And America is so cowardly when it comes to facing awful truths about itself.
So, as we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we must face the fact that we are at a moral crossroad. Will America courageously live out Dr. King’s dream or will it go down the road of bigotry and racist vitriol, preferring to live out Mr. Trump’s nightmare instead? In his autobiography, reflecting on the nonviolent uprising of the people of India, Dr. King wrote, “The way of acquiesce leads to moral and spiritual suicide.” Those of us who defiantly desire to live, and to live out Dr. King’s dream, to make it a reality, must not acquiesce now, precisely when his direst prophetic warning faces us head on.
On the night before he was murdered by a white man on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., Dr. King wrote: “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” Our current president, full of hatred and contempt for those children, is the terrifying embodiment of this prophecy.
We desperately need each other at this moment of moral crisis and malicious racist divisiveness. Will we raise our collective voices against Mr. Trump’s white racism and those who make excuses for it or submit and thereby self-destructively kill any chance of fully becoming our better selves? Dr. King also warned us that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” To honor Dr. King, we must not remain silent, we must not betray his legacy.
So many Americans suffer from the obsessive need to claim “innocence,” that is, to lie to ourselves. Yet such a lie is part of our moral undoing. While many will deny, continue to lie and claim our national “innocence,” I come bearing deeply troubling, but not surprising, news: White racism is now comfortably located within the Oval Office, right there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, embodied in our 45th president, one who is, and I think many would agree, must agree, without any hesitation, a white racist. There are many who will resist this characterization, but Mr. Trump has desecrated the symbolic aspirations of America, exhumed forms of white supremacist discourse that so many would assume is spewed only by Ku Klux Klan.”
Read the rest of Professor Yancy’s op-ed at the link.
From lead columnist David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick at the NY Times we get “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List.”
Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.
The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.
Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.
The New York Years
Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites, according to the federal government.
Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”
In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he argued they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.
In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”
He uses the gang MS-13 to disparage all immigrants. Among many other statements, he has suggested that Obama’s protection of the Dreamers — otherwise law-abiding immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — contributed to the spread of MS-13.
In December 2015, Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” including refusing to readmit Muslim-American citizens who were outside of the country at the time.
“I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.
The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.
So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.
Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.
The history of America is one in which white people used racism and white supremacy to develop a racial caste system that advantaged them and disadvantaged others.
Understanding this, it is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump’s words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people.
It is not a stretch to say that Trump is racist. It’s not a stretch to say that he is a white supremacist. It’s not a stretch to say that Trump is a bigot.
I know of no point during his entire life where he has apologized for, repented of, or sought absolution for any of his racist actions or comments.
Instead, he either denies, deflects or amps up the attack.
Trump is a racist. We can put that baby to bed.
“Racism” and “racist” are simply words that have definitions, and Trump comfortably and unambiguously meets those definitions.
We have unfortunately moved away from the simple definition of racism, to the point where the only people to whom the appellation can be safely applied are the vocal, violent racial archetypes.
Racism doesn’t require hatred, constant expression, or even conscious awareness. We want racism to be fringe rather than foundational. But, wishing isn’t an effective method of eradication.
We have to face this thing, stare it down and fight it back.
The simple acknowledgment that Trump is a racist is the easy part. The harder, more substantive part is this: What are we going to do about it?
First and foremost, although Trump is not the first president to be a racist, we must make him the last. If by some miracle he should serve out his first term, he mustn’t be allowed a second. Voters of good conscience must swarm the polls in 2020.
But before that, those voters must do so later this year, to rid the House and the Senate of as many of Trump’s defenders, apologists and accomplices as possible. Should the time come where impeachment is inevitable, there must be enough votes in the House and Senate to ensure it.
We have to stop thinking that we can somehow separate what racists believe from how they will behave. We must stop believing that any of Trump’s actions are clear of the venom coursing through his convictions. Everything he does is an articulation of who he is and what he believes. Therefore, all policies he supports, positions he takes and appointments he makes are suspect.
And finally, we have to stop giving a pass to the people — whether elected official or average voter — who support and defend his racism. If you defend racism you are part of the racism. It doesn’t matter how much you say that you’re an egalitarian, how much you say that you are race blind, how much you say that you are only interested in people’s policies and not their racist polemics.
As the brilliant James Baldwin once put it: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” When I see that in poll after poll a portion of Trump’s base continues to support his behavior, including on race, I can only conclude that there is no real daylight between Trump and his base. They are part of his racism.
When I see the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda, I see that there is no real daylight between Trump and them either. They too are part of his racism.
When you see it this way, you understand the enormity and the profundity of what we are facing. There were enough Americans who were willing to accept Trump’s racism to elect him. There are enough people in Washington willing to accept Trump’s racism to defend him. Not only is Trump racist, the entire architecture of his support is suffused with that racism. Racism is a fundamental component of the Trump presidency.
Back over at the Washington Post, op-ed writer E.J. Dionne, Jr., tells us the depressing news that “We could be a much better country. Trump makes it impossible.”
Dionne concludes his piece with the following observations about our current “Dreamer” debate:
“Our current debate is frustrating, and not only because Trump doesn’t understand what “mutual toleration” and “forbearance” even mean. By persistently making himself, his personality, his needs, his prejudices and his stability the central topics of our political conversation, Trump is blocking the public conversation we ought to be having about how to move forward.
And while Trump’s enablers in the Republican Party will do all they can to avoid the issue, there should now be no doubt (even if this was clear long ago) that we have a blatant racist as our president. His reference to immigrants from “sh–hole countries” and his expressed preference for Norwegians over Haitians, Salvadorans and new arrivals from Africa make this abundantly clear. Racist leaders do not help us reach mutual toleration. His semi-denial 15 hours after his comment was first reported lacked credibility, especially because he called around first to see how his original words would play with his base.
But notice also what Trump’s outburst did to our capacity to govern ourselves and make progress. Democrats and Republicans sympathetic to the plight of the “dreamers” worked out an immigration compromise designed carefully to give Trump what he had said he needed.
There were many concessions by Democrats on border security, “chain migration” based on family reunification, and the diversity visa lottery that Trump had criticized. GOP senators such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) bargained in good faith and were given ample reason by Trump to think they had hit his sweet spot.
Trump blew them away with a torrent of bigotry. In the process, he shifted the onus for avoiding a government shutdown squarely on his own shoulders and those of Republican leaders who were shamefully slow in condemning the president’s racism.
There are so many issues both more important and more interesting than the psyche of a deeply damaged man. We are capable of being a far better nation. But we need leaders who call us to our obligations to each other as free citizens. Instead, we have a president who knows only how to foster division and hatred.”
Read the rest of the op-ed at the link.
Our “Liar-in-Chief:” This short video from CNN, featuring the Washington Post’s “Chief Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler deals with the amazing 2000+ false or misleading claims that Trump has made even before the first anniversary of his Presidency: “Trump averages 5-6 false claims a day.”
Also on video, even immigration restrictionists sometimes wax eloquent about the exceptional generosity of U.S. immigration and refugee laws (even as they engage in an unending battle to undermine that claimed generosity). But, the reality, as set forth in this short HuffPost video is that on a regular basis our Government knowingly and intentionally returns individuals, mostly Hispanics, to countries where they are likely to be harmed or killed because we are unable to fit them within often hyper-technical and overly restrictive readings of various protection laws or because we are unwilling to exercise humanitarian discretion to save them..
I know first-hand because in my former position as a U.S. Immigration Judge, I sometimes had to tell individuals (and their families) in person that I had to order them returned to a country where I had concluded that they would likely be severely harmed or killed because I could not fit them into any of the categories of protection available under U.S. law. I daresay that very few of the restrictionists who glory in the idea of even harsher and more restrictive immigration laws have had this experience.
And clearly, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller, Bob Goodlatte and others in the GOP would like to increase the number of humans we return to harm or death by stripping defenseless juveniles and other vulnerable asylum seekers of some of the limited rights they now possess in the false name of “border security.” Indeed, Sessions even invented a false narrative of a fraud-ridden, “attorney-gamed” (how do folks who often don’t even have a chance to get an attorney use attorneys to “game” the system?) asylum system in an attempt to justify his totally indefensible and morally bankrupt position.
Check out this video from HuffPost, entitled “This Is The Violent And Tragic Reality Of Deportation” to see the shocking truth about how our removal system really works (or not)!
Thinking of MLK’S “I have a dream,” next, I’ll take you over to The Guardian, where Washington Correspondent Sabrina Siddiqui tells us how “Immigration policy progress and setbacks have become pattern for Dreamers.”
“Greisa Martínez Rosas has seen it before: a rare bipartisan breakthrough on immigration policy, offering a glimmer of hope to advocates like herself. Then a swift unraveling.
Martínez is a Dreamer, one of about 700,000 young undocumented migrants, brought to the US as children, who secured temporary protections through Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or Daca.
She considers herself “one of the lucky ones”. Last year, she was able to renew her legal status until 2020, even as Donald Trump threw the Dreamers into limbo by rescinding Daca and declaring a deadline of 5 March for Congress to act to replace it.
Martínez is an activist with United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigration advocacy group in the US. She has fought on the front lines.
In 2010 and 2013, she saw efforts for immigration reform, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, culminate in disappointment. She rode a familiar rollercoaster this week, as a bipartisan Daca fix was undermined by Trump’s reported – if contested – reference to African and Central American nations as “shithole countries”.
“It feels like a sequel,” Martínez told the Guardian, adding that Trump’s adversarial views underscored the need to hash out a deal. “This same man is responsible for running a Department of Homeland Security that seeks to hunt and deport people of color.”
Negotiations over immigration have always been precarious. Trump has complicated the picture. After launching his candidacy for president with a speech that called Mexican migrants “rapists” and “killers”, Trump campaigned on deporting nearly 11 million undocumented migrants and building a wall on the Mexico border.
He has, however, shown a more flexible attitude towards Dreamers – despite his move to end their protective status. Last Tuesday, the president sat in the White House, flanked by members of both parties. In a 45-minute negotiating session, televised for full effect, Trump ignited fury among his hardcore supporters by signaling he was open to protection for Dreamers in exchange for modest border security measures.
Then, less than 48 hours later, Trump’s reported comments about countries like Haiti and El Salvador prompted a fierce backlash.
“People are picking their jaws up from the table and they’re trying to recover from feelings of deep hurt and anger,” said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, a group which advocates for immigration reform.
“We always knew we were climbing a mountain … but it’s improbable to imagine a positive breakthrough for immigrants with the most nativist president in modern America in charge.”
As the uproar continued, it was nearly forgotten that on Thursday, hours before Trump’s remarks became public, a group of senators announced a bipartisan deal.
Under it, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers would be able to gain provisional legal status and eventually apply for green cards. They would not be able to sponsor their parents for citizenship – an effort to appease Trump’s stance against so-called “chain migration” – but parents would be able to obtain a form of renewable legal status.
There would be other concessions to earn Trump’s signature, such as $2bn for border security including physical barriers, if not by definition a wall.
The compromise would also do away with the diversity visa lottery and reallocate those visas to migrants from underrepresented countries and those who stand to lose Temporary Protected Status. That would help those affected by the Trump administration’s recent decision to terminate such status for some nationals of El Salvador, effectively forcing nearly 200,000 out of the country.
The bill would be far less comprehensive than the one put forward in 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” proposed a bill that would have given nearly 11 million undocumented migrants a path to citizenship.
The bill passed the Senate with rare bipartisan support. In the Republican-led House it never received a vote.
Proponents of reform now believe momentum has shifted in their favor, despite Trump’s ascent. The Arizona senator Jeff Flake, part of the 2013 effort and also in the reform group today, said there was a clear deadline of 5 March to help Dreamers.
“I do think there is a broader consensus to do this than we had before,” Flake told the Guardian. “We’re going have 700,000 kids subject to deportation. That’s the biggest difference.”
Read the rest of the story at the link.
Finally, John Blake at CNN tells us “Three ways [you might not know] MLK speaks to our time.”
That’s a famous line from the 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it could also apply to a modern American hero: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, it’s easy to freeze-frame him as the benevolent dreamer carved in stone on the Washington Mall. Yet the platitudes that frame many King holiday events often fail to mention the most radical aspects of his legacy, says Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at Brooklyn College and author of several books on the civil rights movement.
“We turn him into a Thanksgiving parade float, he’s jolly, larger than life and he makes us feel good,” Theoharis says. “We’ve turned him into a mascot.”
Many people vaguely know that King opposed the Vietnam War and talked more about poverty in his later years. But King also had a lot to say about issues not normally associated with civil rights that still resonate today, historians and activists say.
If you’re concerned about inequality, health care, climate change or even the nastiness of our political disagreements, then King has plenty to say to you. To see that version of King, though, we have to dust off the cliches and look at him anew.
If you’re more familiar with your smartphone than your history, try this: Think of King not just as a civil rights hero, but also as an app — his legacy has to be updated to remain relevant.
Here are three ways we can update our MLK app to see how he spoke not only to his time, but to our time as well:
. . . .
But here’s one more uncomfortable thought that also explains why King remains so relevant:
The country is still divided by many of the same issues that consumed him.
On the last night of his life, King told a shouting congregation of black churchgoers that “we as a people” would get to “the Promised Land.” That kind of optimism, though, sounds like it belongs to another era.
What we have now is a leader in the White House who denies widespread reports that he complained about Latino and African immigrants coming to America from “shithole” countries; a white supremacist who murders worshippers in church; a social media landscape that pulsates with anger and accusations.
King’s Promised Land doesn’t sound boring when compared to today’s headlines. And maybe that’s what’s so sad about reliving his life every January for some people.
Fifty years after he died, King’s vision for America still sounds so far away.”
Read the complete article at the link.
There you have it. A brief but representative sample of some of the many ways in which Dr. King’s dream of a “post racist America” is still relevant and why there’s still much more work still to be done than many of us might have thought several years ago.
So, the next time you hear bandied about terms like “merit-based” (means: exclude Brown and Black immigrants); “extreme vetting” (means: using bureaucracy to keep Muslims and other perceived “undesirables” out); “tax cuts” (means: handouts to the rich at the expense of the poor); “entitlement reform” (means: cutting benefits for the most vulnerable); “health care reform” (means: kicking the most needy out of the health care system); “voter fraud” (means: suppressing the Black, Hispanic, and Democratic vote); “rule of law” (means: perverting the role of Government agencies and the courts to harm Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, women, the poor, and other minorities); “job creation” (means: destroying our precious natural resources and the environment for the benefit of big corporations), “border security” (means: slashing rights for children and asylum seekers, and more money for building a wall and expanding prisons for non-criminal migrants, a/k/a/ “The New American Gulag”), “ending chain migration” (means keeping non-White and/or non-Christian immigrants from bringing family members) and other deceptively harmless sounding euphemisms, know what the politicos are really up to and consider them in the terms that Dr. King might have.
What’s really behind the rhetoric and how will it help create the type of more fair, just, equal, and value-driven society that majority of us in American seek to be part of and leave to succeeding generations. If it isn’t moving us as a nation toward those goals, “Just Say NO” as Dr. King would have done!
“As we approach the first anniversary of the Trump presidency, a clear pattern emerges.
A Muslim immigrant and her U.S.-born husband kill civilians. Candidate Donald Trump’s reaction was to propose a ban on all Muslim immigrants.
Some refugees commit crimes. His reaction is to bar all refugees for 120 days and drastically cut refugee admissions after that.
A diversity-visa immigrant commits a terrorist act. President Trump‘s reaction is to call for repealing the diversity immigrant program.
A man is admitted under the sibling preference. His accompanying child attempts a terrorist attack years later. President Trump’s reaction is that all “chain immigration” should be banned.
I wonder what his reaction will be if his “merit-based” program becomes law and a person admitted under that program commits a serious crime, perhaps years later. Would President Trump then call for the repeal of the entire “merit-based” program?
The absurdity of condemning an entire group because of the actions of a single member seems self-evident. If a left-handed immigrant commits a crime, no one would propose banning all left-handed immigrants. The real question is whether there is a causal link between the commission of the crime and either the substantive criteria or the processes of the particular program.
No such link exists. For one thing, everyone who seeks admission to the United States under any of these programs is rigorously vetted. I know this firsthand, from my experience as chief counsel of the federal agency that admits immigrants and refugees.
. . . .
Anti-immigrant groups are fond of pointing out that, if an individual who committed a crime had never been allowed to enter, the crime would not have occurred. And that is true. But that observation could be made about any admission program. No matter how strict the criteria or how rigorous the vetting, there is always some possibility, however remote, that a given individual will one day commit a crime. Short of banning all foreign nationals from ever setting foot on U.S. soil, there is no way to reduce the risk to zero.
As with any other policy decision, the risks have to be balanced against the benefits. And there are benefits in allowing U.S. citizens to reunite with their family members, benefits in attracting workers with needed skills, benefits in diversifying the immigrant stream, and benefits in fulfilling a moral responsibility to welcome our fair share of those who fear for their lives.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Stephen Legomsky is an emeritus law professor at Washington University, the former chief counsel of the federal immigration services agency, and the principal author of “Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy,” which has been the required text for immigration courses at 185 law schools.”
Go on over to The Hill at the link to read Steve’s complete article.
Thanks, Steve, for sending this my way and for these great and appropriate thoughts on MLK Day! It’s important for those of us who have spent a lifetime working in the field and have served the public in our Government to speak out against the various false narratives and perversions of programs that have served America well being pushed by the restrictionists who control this Administration’s immigration policies. Hate, fear, and loathing are not the answers that Dr. King was promoting!
Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky report for the Washington Post:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to find his way back into President Trump’s good graces.
For months, Sessions has asked senior White House aides to make sure the president knows what he is doing at the Justice Department, two White House advisers said, and has told allies he hopes policy decisions that garner news coverage will please Trump. Sessions’s team at Justice has crafted a public campaign to highlight the work it is doing to advance the president’s agenda. The department has also begun looking into matters that Trump has publicly complained are not being pursued.
Top Trump advisers, including White House counsel Donald McGahn and counselor Kellyanne Conway and former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former strategist Stephen K. Bannon, have at times joined the effort and pressed Trump to give his attorney general a second chance. They note that his department has helped reduce illegal border crossings and carried out a number of the president’s initiatives, such as cracking down on leaks and targeting the MS-13 street gang.
But Sessions, who was one of Trump’s earliest backers and gave up a safe Senate seat to join the administration, has, by all accounts, been unable to repair his relationship with the president. Trump has dismissed praise of Sessions, according to four White House officials and advisers, as he continues to rage about the Russia investigationand Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the probe into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was any coordination with the Trump campaign.
“He’s one of the most active Cabinet secretaries there is,” one White House official said. “He’s done a fine job. Does it wash away the sin of recusal? I don’t think so.”
. . . .
At the Justice Department, officials have tried to publicly tout their successes, hopeful that political allies and the president, a frequent television viewer, will take notice. They have done work that — in their view — should appeal to the president and his base, such as settling lawsuits with tea party groups, issuing guidance on religious liberty, cracking down on illegal immigration and rolling back various Obama-era guidances, including one advising courts to be wary of imposing heavy fines on those who can’t afford them.
“We’re trying to get our successes out in the ether,” one department official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss dynamics with the White House.
The official said Justice has communicated with some conservative constituencies, like law enforcement groups, and was recently heartened when the Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement praising Sessions’s decision to make it easier for U.S. prosecutors to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized the substance, advisers said.
“It’s that kind of stuff that you figure will lead to this tipping point where the audience of one says, ‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive,’ ” the official said.
But the official acknowledged that the department can’t seem to overcome the president’s frustration over Sessions’s recusal, and even some publicizing of successes can lead to mixed results. The department has allowed its top spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, to make television appearances, but while half of the interview will be about work officials want to promote, the conversation often turns to the Russia investigation, which is not helpful to Sessions, if Trump is watching.
. . . .
One department official said Sessions had no real option under federal regulations but to recuse himself. Even a number of top White House lawyers and aides argued to Trump that Sessions needed to step aside.
. . . .
Sessions is widely disliked among liberals, who say his policies are rolling back decades of social and civil rights progress. But among conservatives and those on the far right, Sessions is a strong spot in the administration.
A few months ago, Leonard Leo, a legal adviser to Trump, said the president asked him about Sessions. Leo said he told the president he was impressed by the department, particularly its “religious liberty” guidance and the performance of the solicitor general’s office. Leo said Trump largely listened to his assessment.
“For conservatives going into the Trump administration, the question was whether the department’s morale could be restored and whether there would be a greater sensitivity to respect for the rule of law in the department,” Leo said in an interview. “I think Attorney General Sessions has done a good job of creating the right atmosphere in the department.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Poor Gonzo! Here he thought that a heavy dose of White Nationalism, racism, voter suppression, xenophobia, and scoffing at Constitutional rights like abortion at the DOJ would overcome a single unavoidable act of acting ethically and following the law. Boy, was he wrong! What Trump really wanted was a complete toady dedicated to protecting Trump, his family, and a few of his friends from the natural consequences of their inappropriate behavior. Gonzo should have taken Mike Pence’s class in “Toadyism 101” before accepting the job!
“When it comes to President Trump and race, there is a predictable cycle. He makes a remark that seems racist, and people engage in an extended debate about whether he is personally racist. His critics say he is. His defenders argue for an interpretation in which race plays a secondary role (such as: Haiti really is a worse place to live than Norway).
It’s time to end this cycle.
No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people.
And that makes him a racist.
Is it possible to defend some of his racially charged statements by pointing out that something other than race might explain them? Sure. Is it possible that he doesn’t think of himself as a racist who views white people as superior to nonwhite people? Yes.
But the definition of a racist — the textbook definition, as Paul Ryan might say — is someone who treats some people better than others because of their race. Trump fits that definition many times over:
• He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful.
• He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville last August “very fine people.”
• He is quick to highlight crimes committed by dark-skinned people, sometimes exaggerating or lying about it (such as a claim about growing crime from “radical Islamic terror” in Britain). He is very slow to decry hate crimes committed against dark-skinned people (such as the murder of an Indian man in Kansas last year).
• At the White House yesterday, Trump vulgarly called for less immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.
For more on this topic, read my colleague Nick Kristof wrestling with the topic during the 2016 campaign: “Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities,” he wrote. “While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.”
And Slate’s Jamelle Bouie: “It’s impossible to know what’s in his heart. But what Trump feels is less important than what he does.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the NYT editorial page, Professor Roxane Gay, a distinguished Haitian American writes:
“I could write a passionate rebuttal extolling all the virtues of Haiti, the island my parents are from, the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere. I could write about the beauty of the island, the music and vibrant art, the majesty of the mountains, the crystalline blue of the water surrounding her, the resilience of the Haitian people, our incredible work ethic, our faith. I could tell you about my parents, how they came to this country with so many other Haitians, how they embraced the American dream and thrived, how I and so many first-generation Haitian-Americans are products of our parents’ American dreams.
Or I could tell you about the singular, oppressive narrative the media trots out when talking about Haiti, the one about an island mired in poverty and misery, the one about AIDS, the one about a country plagued by natural and man-made disasters, because these are the stories people want to hear, the stories that make Haiti into a pitiable spectacle instead of the proud, complicated country it is. I could tell you how I have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy, throughout my life, educating people about Haiti and disabusing them of the damaging, incorrect notions they have about the country of my parents’ birth.
On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that devastated Haiti, the president, in the Oval Office, is said to have wondered aloud why he should allow immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations to enter the United States. Mr. Trump has tweeted a denial that he made this statement. “He said those hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, who was in the room, said Friday.
But the president has to know that even if video footage of the comment existed, there wouldn’t be any political consequences for him. He has to know, like we all do, that xenophobic commentary plays well with his base, the people who were more than happy to put him in office because they could seamlessly project their racism and misogyny onto his celebrity persona. It’s no wonder Fox News hosts have defended the comment.
Now, in response to the news about the reports of the vile remark, there are people saying “vote” and highlighting the importance of the 2018 midterm elections, as if American democracy is unfettered from interference and corruption. There is a lot of trite rambling about how the president isn’t really reflecting American values when, in fact, he is reflecting the values of many Americans. And there are entreaties to educate the president about the truth of Haiti as if he simply suffers from ignorance.
But the president is not alone in thinking so poorly of the developing world. He didn’t reveal any new racism. He, once again, revealed racism that has been there all along. It is grotesque and we must endure it for another three or seven years, given that the Republicans have a stranglehold on power right now and are more invested in holding onto that power than working for the greater good of all Americans.
What I’m supposed to do now is offer hope. I’m supposed to tell you that no president serves forever. I’m supposed to offer up words like “resist” and “fight” as if rebellious enthusiasm is enough to overcome federally, electorally sanctioned white supremacy. And I’m supposed to remind Americans, once more, of Haiti’s value, as if we deserve consideration and a modicum of respect from the president of the United States only because as a people we are virtuous enough.
But I am not going to do any of that. I am tired of comfortable lies. I have lost patience with the shock supposedly well-meaning people express every time Mr. Trump says or does something terrible but well in character. I don’t have any hope to offer. I am not going to turn this into a teaching moment to justify the existence of millions of Haitian or African or El Salvadoran people because of the gleeful, unchecked racism of a world leader. I am not going to make people feel better about the gilded idea of America that becomes more and more compromised and impoverished with each passing day of the Trump presidency.
This is a painful, uncomfortable moment. Instead of trying to get past this moment, we should sit with it, wrap ourselves in the sorrow, distress and humiliation of it. We need to sit with the discomfort of the president of the United States referring to several countries as “shitholes” during a meeting, a meeting that continued, his comments unchallenged. No one is coming to save us. Before we can figure out how to save ourselves from this travesty, we need to sit with that, too.
Thanks primarily to the African-American Community in Alabama, we all were saved from the nightmare of having racist, xenophobic, homophobic theocrat Roy Moore thrust upon the U.S. Senate. But, “White Folks” are going to chip in big time to save the country from Trump and his GOP apologists/handlers/fellow travelers. No less than the future of American Democracy and that of the so-called “Free World” is at stake.
My friend and NDPA stalwart Michelle Mendez over at CLINIC reports thei hiring of three new immigration litigators to assist in the battle to keep the Trump Administration from trampling the Due Process rights of immigrants (and others):
“We are thrilled to announce the addition of three outstanding advocates to our Defending Vulnerable Populations team within CLINIC’s Training and Legal Support Program:
Georges Francis, Senior Attorney
Rachel Naggar, Remote Legal Teams Project Attorney
Vickie Neilson, Senior Attorney
Georges Francis obtained his J.D. from Florida International University where he previously obtained a B.A. in business administration. He was compelled to attend law school after volunteering at the Krome Detention Center where he witnessed the disparate treatment of Haitians in removal proceedings and the hardships all ICE detainees and their families endured while trying to navigate the complicated immigration court process. Since graduating from law school and prior to CLINIC, Georges served as managing attorney for Catholic Charities Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami from 2006 to 2017. There, he gained over 11 years of experience litigating and managing detained and non-detained removal cases. Georges is fluent in Creole, proficient in French, and speaks basic Spanish. He is a member of the New Jersey bar and will be working remotely initially from Coral Gables, Florida and then from Charlotte, North Carolina where he will represent CLINIC in the Center of Excellence collaboration.
Rachel Naggar holds a B.S. in Family Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. During law school, Rachel was a summer clinical fellow at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Rachel then worked as a staff attorney at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona from September 2009 to May 2011 before transitioning to the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem in the Immigration Defense Practice from June 2011 to June 2015. Thereafter, Rachel was an associate attorney Glickman Turley LLP handling immigration and criminal matters, including federal criminal appeals, and then a staff attorney at Project Citizenship. She is a member of the Maryland and Massachusetts bars. Rachel will represent CLINIC in a new pilot project in collaboration with AILA and American Immigration Council’s Immigration Justice Campaign. She works remotely from Brookline, Massachusetts.
Vickie Neilson has worked as the Legal Director of Immigrant Justice Corps, an immigration legal fellowship program that seeks to expand the quality and quantity of immigration legal services, since 2014. Vickie has also worked in the Office of Chief Counsel of USCIS Refugee and Asylum Division, as the legal director of Immigration Equality, and as the legal director of the HIV Law Project. She has taught as an adjunct professor at CUNY School of Law and New York University School of Law. Vickie is the Chair of the Immigration Committee of the New York City Bar Association and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association where she is co-chair of the AILA New York Ethics Committee and a member of the National Asylum Committee. She is the editor and co-author of Immigration Law and the Transgender Client, and is a contributing author to AILA’s Guide to U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization Law. She is a graduate of CUNY School of Law and Harvard University. She is admitted to the New York Bar. Starting February 26th, she will work remotely from Pleasantville, New York.
Embracing the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger, CLINIC promotes the dignity and protects the rights of immigrants in partnership with a dedicated network of Catholic and community legal immigration programs.”
Congrats to all! And thanks for joining the (unfortunately) never ending battle to force the U.S. Government and this Administration to live up to the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution! What if we had a Government that actually believed in and followed the Constitution for vulnerable migrants and everyone else in the United States? Now, THAT would be a “Great America!”
The Trump administration is pointing to a recent uptick in illegal border crossings as evidence that it needs more authority — even as it continues to tout a longer-term decrease as proof of the effectiveness of its policies.
Illegal entries to the US have risen substantially over the past few months.
In a rare statement on its monthly report of apprehensions and rejections at the border, the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday both praised the numbers and said work remained.
“The final border apprehension numbers of 2017, specifically at the southern border, undeniably prove the effectiveness of President Trump’s commitment to securing our borders,” said DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton, noting the numbers over the last year were 40% below the final year of President Barack Obama’s tenure.
But, Houlton said, the recent increase spelled trouble.
“The significant increase over the last month in the number of family units and unaccompanied children coming across the border illegally highlights the dire need for Congress to immediately adopt responsible pro-American immigration reforms. … The Secretary will require fixes to these loopholes as part of any immigration package negotiated (in a meeting Tuesday) at the White House.”
But starting in the summer, crossings began to again approach historic levels. With 40,513 apprehensions and rejections at the southern border in December, the total numbers are behind fiscal years 2016 and 2017, but surpass crossings in fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The administration has employed aggressive rhetoric and spoken consistently about securing the border and cracking down on undocumented immigrants in the US. Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are up — but little has operationally changed at the border and deportations last year lagged behind the last year of Obama’s presidency.
Trump is pushing for aggressive policies as part of a deal to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as conservatives argue that allowing undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will only add incentives for potential illegal crossings in the future.”
We’re clearly dealing with “Amateur Night at the Bijou” here! Anybody with even passing familiarity with or competency in immigration policy would know better than to do the “victory dance” based on a couple of months of DHS enforcement data. It’s not like DHS is renowned for either the accuracy of its enforcement statistics or the depth and quality of analysis thereof.
First, and foremost, the increased arrivals of families and children from the Northern Triangle presents no real security issue. Most turn themselves in at the border or the nearest Border Patrol Station and seek asylum. Indeed, if anything, the unrelentingly negative rhetoric of the Trumpsters probably leads a few individuals who would otherwise turn themselves in or apply at the port of entry to try to get inland to avoid more or less mandatory detention.
Clearly, the driver here is conditions in the Northern Triangle, which continue to deteriorate, notwithstanding the absurd political determination by Secretary Neilsen that it was” A-OK” to send long term residents from El Salvador back there. The solution is definitely not more militarization of the border or more unnecessary and inhumane detention.
No, its a combination of 1) working to improve conditions that force folks to flee the Northern Triangle; 2) working with the UNHCR other stable countries in the Americas to distribute the flow more evenly among “receiving countries;” and 3) developing either a temporary refuge program or a more realistic, generous, and easily administered program to grant asylum, withholding, and/or relief under the CAT to those many who meet the legal requirements properly interpreted.
At bottom, there really isn’t much difference between these folks and waves of Cuban refugees whom we accepted, processed, and successfully integrated into our society with greatly beneficial results for both the Cubans and America.
Time to be done with the xenophobia and the racially-inspired bias against Central Americans fleeing for their lives. No, this Administration is unlikely to do that. And, that’s why the problems caused by irregular migration are likely to continue long into the future no matter how much “tough guy” rhetoric Trump or anyone else spews out and how much we spend on unnecessary border militarization.
Yes, there are real security and law enforcement problems at the Southern Border. For sure! But more women and children fleeing conditions in the Northern Triangle aren’t among them. If anything, the Trump Administration’s fixation on those who aren’t a real security problem deflects focus from the real problems of drug and human smuggling and the possible entry of those who would actually be risks to our safety and security.
“Sessions considers tying the hands of immigration judges.
Administrative closure sounds like one of the driest bureaucratic terms imaginable, but it has huge implications for immigrants and their families. Now, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees immigration judges, is considering limiting that power.
Sessions wrote in a recent brief that he would review judges’ authority to administratively close immigration cases, the latest in a series of Department of Justice memos and policies that could reshape immigration courts and make it even harder for people to remain in the U.S.
Administrative closure has been used frequently by judges to drop cases against people who aren’t a priority for deportation or who have other pending legal issues. Judges under the Obama administration used this option far more than previous judges, administratively closing 180,000 cases in four years. Critics say it operates as a kind of backdoor amnesty, particularly for people who don’t qualify for other kinds of relief under immigration law.
Closed cases are in a sort of limbo: the immigrant isn’t legally in the U. S., but the government isn’t pursuing deportation. Authorities can change their mind at any time. Under Obama, this usually happened only if the immigrant went on to commit a crime or if there was a development in his or her legal status. But the Trump Administration has already begun re-openingthousands of administratively closed cases. Immigration judges under Trump have also stopped closing cases for people who didn’t used to be an enforcement priority — such as parents of U.S. citizen children who had been in the country for a long time and had no criminal record.
Judges, attorneys and advocates say that ending administrative closure entirely could have a significant impact on individual cases and the immigration court system overall. Sessions could decide to reopen as many as 350,000 closed cases, which could flood a backlogged system that has 650,000 pending cases.
“If he brings them all back into court at once, that’s going to cripple the courts even further,” said Paul Wickham Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals. “They can’t do the cases they have now — why is he out there looking for more?”
There are groups of immigrants for whom administrative closure is particularly important. Someone being deported for a crime but still fighting the conviction may have his or her case closed while an appeal is pending. Judges may also stop removal proceedings for immigrants with serious mental health issues or intellectual disabilities if they are found to be incompetent to go through court hearings.
Many undocumented children also ask for administrative closure while they’re applying for juvenile protected status, a legal status that can take years to wind its way through state family court and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Without administrative closure, “those children could be deported while their application for a green card is pending with another immigration agency,” said Nicholas Phillips, an immigration attorney with Prisoners Legal Services of New York.
If administrative closure isn’t an option, judges have another option of issuing a continuance, which postpones the decision. However, that practice also recently came under fire from the attorney general. Sessions’ office recently criticized the increased use of continuances by immigration judges, saying they delayed the courts.
The Justice Department has made several decisions and proposals recently that would change how immigration judges do their job.
Sessions’ announcement of the review came when he intervened in the immigration case of a minor who arrived from Guatemala in 2014. He has asked the Department of Homeland Security and other interested groups to submit briefs on the issue of administrative closure by a February deadline.”
There are an estimated 350,000 pending cases currently in “administratively closed” (“AC”) status! In my extensive experience at all levels of our immigration system, there are sound reasons supporting almost all of these ACs.
If Sessions, as expected by most advocates, reaches the rather absurd conclusion that notwithstanding over three decades of use by Administrations and Attorneys General of both parties, AC is somehow “illegal” or should be “withdrawn,” these cases likely would mindlessly be thrown back into the already overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Courts on top of the 660,000 already pending cases. Over a million pending cases! That has the potential to “implode” or “explode” or “sink” (choose your favorite verb) the Immigration Court system on the spot.
In reality, AC has been nothing but a godsend for overworked, over-stressed U.S. Immigration Judges and the immigration Court system. Rather than being forced to “docket babysit” cases that can better be resolved elsewhere in the system than in Immigration Court, or that under a proper use of resources and prosecutorial discretion by the DHS never should have been placed in Immigration Court in the first place, the Immigration Judges can “clear some of the deadwood” from their dockets and concentrate on the cases that actually need their limited time and attention. No, AC by itself can’t solve the chronic backlog and due process problems currently festering in the U.S. Immigration Courts. But, reducing the active docket by a whopping one-third without treading on anyone’s due process rights was certainly a step in the right direction!
The current backlog has been aggravated, if not actually largely created, by the practice of “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) by politicos in the DOJ and the White House going back decades.As Administrations and AG’s change, and DHS Enforcement priorities change with them, cases that were once “priorities” are shuffled off to the end of the docket to make way for the new “enforcement priority of the moment.” Other times, Immigration Judges are shuffled or detailed to the new “priority dockets” and their now “non-priority regular cases” are arbitrarily reassigned to other judges (who already are carrying full dockets themselves). Many times, this means taking cases that are “ready for trial” and replacing them with cases that aren’t ready for trial because the respondent needs to find a lawyer, file applications, and prepare the case. Other times, when dockets are shifted around largely without meaningful participation by the Immigration Judges, the DHS files or EOIR “record files” are not available, thus causing further delays.
In that manner, cases are not completed on any regular, predictable schedule, “Individual Hearing” dates become “jokes,” and U.S. Immigration Judges lose both credibility and the last vestiges of independent control over their court dockets as politicos and bureaucrats who neither fully understand nor are properly part of the Immigration Court System screw things up time after time.
Sessions appears anxious to add to and further aggravate these problems, rather than addressing them ion a reasonable and systematic manner with participation of all parties who use and rely on the U.S. Immigration Courts for due process and justice. Shame on him and on our Congress for allowing this to happen!
As I’ve said over and over: It’s past time for Congress to create an independent U.S. Immigration Court system that would be free of these types of highly politicized and totally wasteful shenanigans!
Only an independent U.S. Immigration Court will provide the “level playing field” and truly impartial administration and adjudication necessary to bring these potentially “life or death” cases to conclusion in a manner that is both efficient and in full compliance with fundamental fairness and due process(and, consequently, will find a high degree of acceptance in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, rather than generating too many “returns for redos” as happens in the current “haste makes waste” environment at EOIR.)
“WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump sent senators a lengthy set of demands on Friday that could tank a deal to help Dreamers ― young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children ― and might risk a government funding agreement in the process.
The document is essentially an immigration restrictionist wish list. It calls for a border wall, more immigration enforcement agents, punishment for so-called “sanctuary cities,” restrictions on citizens and legal residents sponsoring family members’ visas, and policies to make it easier to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. No dollar amounts were included in the list of demands, but The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Friday that Trump is seeking nearly $18 billion to pay for a border wall.
Democrats and immigrant rights activists have said they won’t accept the White House’s demands in a deal to grant legal status to Dreamers, hundreds of thousands of whom are at risk of losing deportation protections because Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.
The list could be enough to trigger a Democratic revolt on a government funding bill that needs to pass later this month, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), whose office shared the White House’s list with reporters, said in a statement.
“President Trump has said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall,” Durbin said. “With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction. … It’s outrageous that the White House would undercut months of bipartisan efforts by again trying to put its entire wish-list of hardline anti-immigrant bills—plus an additional $18 billion in wall funding—on the backs of these young people.”
Trump ended DACA in September and said Congress should act to give more permanent protections to recipients of the two-year work permits and deportation relief. DACA recipients will begin to lose permits in greater numbers in March, although activists estimate they’re already losing them at a rate of about 122 per day.
In the months since Trump ended the program, the White House has put out long lists of immigration priorities, and Trump has made broad pronouncements in public comments and tweets, largely focused around building a wall, ending the diversity visa lottery and eliminating so-called “chain migration,” immigration restrictionists’ preferred term for family reunification visas.
The list of demands was initially created in October, with Stephen Miller, a Trump policy adviser, listed as the author of the document, according to the properties on the PDF file. But senators didn’t get a copy until Friday.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the document.
Democrats have said they are willing to give Trump some of what he wants on border security, such as more infrastructure, technology and funds, in exchange for legal status for Dreamers. But they, and Dreamers themselves, have argued any deal must be proportional — not everything Republicans want in exchange for legal status for one subset of the undocumented population. During comprehensive immigration reform efforts in 2013, for example, Democrats agreed to an overhaul of the legal immigration system, border security measures and enforcement as part of a package that would have also granted a path to legal status and eventual citizenship for much of the undocumented immigrant population.
Democrats, activists and even some Republicans have warned that piling on more immigration issues has the potential to sink a deal — it happened during past reform efforts and could again now.
The document the White House sent to senators on Friday could indicate the administration either thinks it can get Democrats to settle because of their desire to help Dreamers, or that it doesn’t really want a deal at all.
I am not a bargaining chip for Stephen Miller’s vendetta against brown and black people. Offering up my safety in exchange for the suffering of immigrant families is sick and we won’t stand for it. Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream
The demands include ending the diversity visa lottery and limiting refugee intake, as well as allowing citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor only minor children and spouses for green cards ― shutting out the ability to bring over adult children or siblings. Trump has disparaged both the diversity visa lottery and “chain migration” as dangerous by citing two terror incidents allegedly perpetrated by people who entered through those programs, although there is no evidence there is a greater risk of terror by immigrants with those visas.
The White House also asked for funds to hire 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and to give local police more authority to assist with deportation efforts. Another priority is to more easily penalize “sanctuary cities,” the loose term for jurisdictions that don’t fully cooperate with immigration enforcement, often because they view it as bad for community policing or because of constitutional concerns.
The list also includes changing policies for people seeking asylum and for unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, restricting relief and making it easier to quickly deport them. It would also mandate E-Verify, a system that allows employers to check immigration status of would-be hires, something immigrant advocates and some business interests oppose because there currently is no pathway for many undocumented people in the U.S. to get status and some industries say they can’t find enough willing legal workers.
The demands include ending the diversity visa lottery and limiting refugee intake, as well as allowing citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor only minor children and spouses for green cards ― shutting out the ability to bring over adult children or siblings. Trump has disparaged both the diversity visa lottery and “chain migration” as dangerous by citing two terror incidents allegedly perpetrated by people who entered through those programs, although there is no evidence there is a greater risk of terror by immigrants with those visas.
The White House also asked for funds to hire 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and to give local police more authority to assist with deportation efforts. Another priority is to more easily penalize “sanctuary cities,” the loose term for jurisdictions that don’t fully cooperate with immigration enforcement, often because they view it as bad for community policing or because of constitutional concerns.
The list also includes changing policies for people seeking asylum and for unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, restricting relief and making it easier to quickly deport them. It would also mandate E-Verify, a system that allows employers to check immigration status of would-be hires, something immigrant advocates and some business interests oppose because there currently is no pathway for many undocumented people in the U.S. to get status and some industries say they can’t find enough willing legal workers.”
Read the rest of Elise’s report at the link.
I think that “Dreamers” are a good place for the Dems to take a stand. And, given the “Bakuninist Wing” of the GOP (who share Trump’s desire to destroy Government, but are dissatisfied with the pace of the destruction), it’s going to be very difficult for Trump to get any type of budget passed without Democratic support.
The DHS needs an additional 10,000 agents like we all need holes in our heads. They don’t have enough legitimate law enforcement functions to perform with the staff they have; that’s why they have time for chasing after kids and stuffing their generally law-abiding parents into an already overwhelmed Immigration Court system for hearings that probably won’t take place until long after this Administration is history. (And, that’s even without Gonzo’s current “plan” which appears to be intentionally “jacking up” the Immigration Court backlog to more than 1,000,000 cases overnight by “recycling” all of the currently “administratively closed” cases!)
The words of Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream, are worth repeating and keeping in mind:
“I am not a bargaining chip for Stephen Miller’s vendetta against brown and black people. Offering up my safety in exchange for the suffering of immigrant families is sick and we won’t stand for it.”
The link to the Arlington Immigration Court follows, and the list of the Immigration Clinic Individual Calendar Hearings (ICHs) in the spring is attached. You are welcome to attend any and all of the ICHs. Your students, colleagues, etc., are welcome too. No RSVP is required but I do suggest you check with Paulina Vera (email@example.com) and/or me a day or two before to confirm (or not) that the hearings will go forward.
Alberto Manuel Benitez
Professor of Clinical Law
Director, Immigration Clinic
The George Washington University Law School
650 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052
(202) 994-4946 fax firstname.lastname@example.org
THE WORLD IS YOURS…
I can personally testify that having a chance to observe the GW Immigration Clinic in person is a treat and a lesson in “how to prepare an Immigration Court case the right way!”
Thanks to my good friend and neighbor Professor Alberto Benitez and his distinguished colleague Paulina Vera (also a former Arlington Intern and “Charter Member” of the “new Due Process Army”) for passing this along and for what they are doing for future generations of lawyers and Due Process in America!
Dec 28 Lawyer Files Disciplinary Complaint Against Chief Immigration Judge
On December 22, New York attorney Bryan S. Johnson filed a complaint with the Assistant Chief Immigration Judge for Conduct and Professionalism against Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller. The basis for the complaint was the Chief Judge’s issuance of guidelines to immigration judges on the handling of cases involving juveniles, including unaccompanied children (OPPM 17-03, Dec. 20, 2017). In that directive, Judge Keller instructed immigration judges that in spite of the sympathetic factors involved in children’s cases, “judges must remain neutral and impartial when adjudicating juvenile cases and shall not display any appearance of impropriety when presiding over such cases.” The complaint argues that such directive instructs immigration judges to violate federal statute, specifically the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”), which requires the Attorney General to train immigration judges to “work with unaccompanied alien children, including identifying children who are victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons, and children for whom asylum or special immigrant relief may be appropriate.” 8 U.S.C. § 1232(e).
Instructing judges to “remain neutral and impartial,” while open to interpretation, will be perceived by many as requiring passivity. As one senior judge explained to me when I was new to the bench, judges should consider themselves blank slates and only consider what the parties have chosen to write on that slate. However, exceptions exist. In a precedent decision issued 20 years ago, the BIA held that in asylum cases in which the parties have not presented enough evidence to provide an adequate record, immigration judges should themselves present country condition evidence into the record. The Board cited favorably to the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status which defines the role of the adjudicator as to “ensure that the applicant presents his case as fully as possible and with all available evidence.” Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722, 729 (BIA 1997). Decided by a BIA that possessed some brilliant minds and courage, the Board in S-M-J- established that there are times that an immigration judge must not remain neutral when doing so will deny an asylum seeker justice.
Ten years later, the Chief Immigration Judge issued guidance to immigration judges handling juvenile cases to take a proactive approach, due to the vulnerability of the child respondents. It bears noting that the 2007 guidelines were issued under a Republican administration. Obviously, a neutral, passive approach by the judge will not ensure a fair hearing where the two parties involved are the Department of Homeland Security, represented in court by one of its attorneys, and a young (and possibly unrepresented) child. In such circumstances, the judge must to some degree advocate for the child to “ensure that the applicant presents his case as fully as possible and with all available evidence,” to use the language of S-M-J-. In response to this need, EOIR created special juvenile dockets, and provided specialized training to the immigration judges chosen to preside over them. In 2008, Congress passed the TVPRA, the statute relied upon by attorney Johnson in his complaint. In 2013, EOIR created an Assistant Chief Immigration Judge position specifically dedicated to “vulnerable populations.”
EOIR has the additional opportunity to create a more level playing field by assigning counsel to all unrepresented juveniles appearing in immigration court. Yet the agency strongly opposed this solution in a class-action lawsuit filed by advocacy groups (including the ACLU and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project), J.E.F.M. v. Lynch. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the case last year, finding that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide the issue. However, the court’s majority opinion emphasized that it was not ruling on the merits of the claim, and in a concurring opinion, two of the three judges on the case’s panel acknowledged that “thousands of children are left to thread their way alone through the labarynthine maze of immigration laws, which, without hyperbole, ‘have been termed second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.’” The judges continued that “given the onslaught of cases involving unaccompanied minors, there is only so much the most dedicated and judicious immigration judges…can do.” The court called on Congress and the Executive branch to take action to provide government-funded counsel to all children appearing in immigration court. The judges concluded that “to give meaning to “Equal Justice Under Law,” the tag line engraved in the U.S. Supreme Court building, to ensure the fair and effective administration of our immigration justice system, and to protect the interests of children who must struggle through that system, the problem demands action now.”
Democratic lawmakers have introduced draft legislation, entitled the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, that would remedy this situation. Versions of the bill went nowhere in 2016; a 2017 version sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.) and 31 co-sponsors was introduced on April 6, 2017 and has made no progress since. The website GovTrack.us states that the bill has a 3 percent chance of being enacted. In the meantime, the Chief Immigration Judge’s latest memo signals a move in the opposite direction under the present administration. Last week, the Trump administration confirmed that it is considering a policy of separating children from their parents upon arrival at the U.S. border. While the administration claims that the policy is designed to discourage Central Americans from making the dangerous journey north, it ignores the fact that those making such journey are refugees fleeing the threat of death in what has become one of the most violent and dangerous regions in the world.
The administration has not explained what alternatives exist to parents seeking to save their children from being murdered and raped by violent gangs, including MS-13, whose members Trump himself has referred to as “animals.” As reported by the New York Post, Trump stated during a speech last July in Long Island, NY of MS-13 members: “They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob. They prey on children. They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs. They slash them with machete. They stab them with knives.” It would therefore seem that the current administration should be seeking to do everything in its power to provide children fleeing the above-described treatment to have their claims for asylum considered as fully and fairly as possible. Restoring the 2007 guidelines, respecting the TVPRA requirements, refusing to separate children from their parents, and providing counsel at government expense to unrepresented children would all be welcome steps towards that goal.
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.
Dec 8 The Impact of Returning Children on Well-Founded Fear
Jeffrey S. Chase is an immigration lawyer in New York City. Jeffrey is a former Immigration Judge, senior legal advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals, and volunteer staff attorney at Human Rights First. He is a past recipient of AILA’s annual Pro Bono Award, and previously chaired AILA’s Asylum Reform Task Force.
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I appreciate Judge Chase’s kind reference to Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722 (BIA 1997). I was on the en banc BIA that decided S-M-J-. (Yes, unlike now, most precedents were issued en banc, so that each Appellate Judge was required to take a public vote on the outcome. Something known as “transparency and accountability” that has disappeared from today’s BIA.)
Forget all the legal gobbledygook in the “Keller Memorandum.” Here’s what a straightforward policy from an Attorney General actually committed to upholding the Constitution and the “Rule of Law” might look like:
The first duty of a Judge is to insure Constitutional Due Process for each individual coming before the court.
A Judge should not conduct a merits hearing for any unrepresented child, including any individual the Judge reasonably believes to be a child.
The Judge and all court personnel should work cooperatively with nongovernmental organizations, bar associations, legal services groups, and community officials to insure that cases involving children are placed on the docket and scheduled in a manner that insures representation in each case
When in doubt, a Judge should always act in a manner that maximizes Due Process protections for each individual coming before the court.
“Pope Francis strongly defended immigrants at his Christmas Eve Mass on Sunday, comparing them to Mary and Joseph finding no place to stay in Bethlehem and saying faith demands that foreigners be welcomed.
Francis, celebrating his fifth Christmas as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, led a solemn Mass for about 10,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica while many others followed the service from the square outside.
Security was stepped up, with participants checked as they approached St. Peter’s Square even before going through metal detectors to enter the basilica. The square had been cleared out hours earlier so security procedures could be put in place.
The Gospel reading at the Mass in Christendom’s largest church recounted the Biblical story of how Mary and Jesus had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered for a census ordered by Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” Francis said.
Even the shepherds who the Bible says were the first to see the child Jesus were “forced to live on the edges of society” and considered dirty, smelly foreigners, he said. “Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared.”
“NEW SOCIAL IMAGINATION”
Wearing white vestments in the flower-bedecked church, Francis called for a “new social imagination … in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth.”
The 81-year-old pope, who was born of Italian immigrant stock in Argentina, has made defense of migrants a major plank of his papacy, often putting him at odds with politicians.
Austria’s new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has aligned himself with central European neighbors like Hungary and the Czech Republic in opposing German-backed proposals to distribute asylum seekers around EU member states.
In elections in Germany in September, the far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made significant gains, with electors punishing Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy and pushing migration policy to the top of the agenda in talks to form a coalition government.
Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini often gives fiery speeches against migrants, is expected to make gains in national elections next year. A law that would give citizenship to children born in Italy to migrant parents is stalled in parliament.
In his homily, Francis said, “Our document of citizenship” comes from God, making respect of migrants an integral part of Christianity.
“This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same,” Francis said.
Francis also condemned human traffickers who make money off desperate migrants as the “Herods of today” with blood on their hands, a reference to the Biblical story of the king who ordered the killing of all newborn male children near Bethlehem because he feared Jesus would one day displace him.
More than 14,000 people have died trying to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe in the past four years.
On Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Compare the Pope’s very clear statement of true Christian values with the fear-mongering, false narratives, and xenophobic rantings and actions of the so-called “Christians” in the Trump Administration.
“A Dec. 20 memo, issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) replaces 2007 guidelines, spelling out policies and procedures judges should follow in dealing with children who crossed the border illegally alone and face possible deportation.
The new memo removes suggestions contained in the 2007 memo for how to conduct “child-sensitive questioning” and adds reminders to judges to maintain “impartiality” even though “juvenile cases may present sympathetic allegations.” The new document also changes the word “child” to “unmarried individual under the age of 18” in many instances.
An EOIR official said the new memo contained “clarifications and updates” to 10-year-old guidance “in order to be consistent with the laws as they’ve been passed by Congress.” The new memo was posted on the Justice Department website but has not been previously reported.
Immigration advocates said they worry the new guidelines could make court appearances for children more difficult, and a spokeswoman for the union representing immigration judges said judges are concerned about the tone of the memo.
President Donald Trump has made tougher immigration enforcement a key policy goal of his administration, and has focused particularly on trying to curb the illegal entry of children. The administration says it wants to prevent vulnerable juveniles from making perilous journeys to the United States and eliminate fraud from programs for young immigrants.
One changed section of the memo focuses on how to make children comfortable in the court in advance of hearings. The old guidance says they “should be permitted to explore” courtrooms and allowed to “sit in all locations, (including, especially, the judge’s bench and the witness stand).”
The new guidance says such explorations should take place only “to the extent that resources and time permit” and specifically puts the judge’s bench off limits.
The new memo also warns judges to be skeptical, since an unaccompanied minor “generally receives more favorable treatment under the law than other categories of illegal aliens,” which creates “an incentive to misrepresent accompaniment status or age in order to attempt to qualify for the benefits.” It also says to be on the lookout for “fraud and abuse,” language that was not in the previous memo.
‘WOLVES IN SHEEP CLOTHING’
Immigration judges are appointed by the U.S. Attorney General and courts are part of the Department of Justice, not an independent branch. The only sitting immigration judges routinely allowed to speak to the media are representatives of their union, the National Association of Immigration Judges.
Dana Marks, a sitting judge and spokeswoman for the union, said the “overall tone” of the memo “is very distressing and concerning to immigration judges.”
“There is a feeling that the immigration courts are just being demoted into immigration enforcement offices, rather than neutral arbiters,” Marks said. “There has been a relentless beating of the drum toward enforcement rather than due process.”
Former immigration judge Andrew Arthur, who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes lower levels of immigration overall, said the new guidelines were needed.
In their previous form, he said, “so much emphasis was placed on the potential inability of the alien to understand the proceedings … that it almost put the judge into the position of being an advocate.”
The courts have had to handle a surge in cases for unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, after their numbers sky-rocketed in 2014 as violence in the region caused residents to flee north.
While illegal crossings initially fell after Trump took office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that since May, each month has seen an increase in children being apprehended either alone or with family members.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech in Boston in September that the special accommodations for unaccompanied minors had been exploited by “gang members who come to this country as wolves in sheep clothing.”
Echoing some of these concerns, the new memo notes in a preamble that not all child cases involve innocents, and that the courts might see “an adolescent gang member” or “a teenager convicted as an adult for serious criminal activity.”
Jennifer Podkul, policy director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) said Congress included special procedural protections for immigrant children in a 2008 anti-trafficking bill to “make sure that a kid gets a fair shot in the courtroom.”
“These kids are by themselves telling a very complicated and oftentimes very traumatic story,” said Podkul. “The approach of this memo, which is much more suspicious, is not going to help get to the truth of a child’s story.”
In cases where children are called to testify, the old guidance instructed judges to “seek to limit the amount of time the child is on the stand.” The new guidance says that judges should “consider” limiting the child’s time on the stand “without compromising due process for the opposing party,” which is generally a government prosecutor.
The memo leaves in a range of special accommodations made for children, including allowing them to bring a pillow or booster seat or a “toy, book, or other personal item.” It also maintains that cases involving unaccompanied minors should be heard on a separate docket when possible and that children should not be detained or transported with adults.
Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Sue Horton and Mary Milliken”
Yes, my dear friend Judge Dana Leigh Marks, Gonzo sees and treats the U.S. Immigration Courts as part of DHS Enforcement — “Just a Whistlestop on The Deportation Express.”
After 35 years of flawed DOJ stewardship and improper political meddling by all Administrations, the U.S. Immigration Courts are largely back in the same hopeless, understaffed, incompetently administered, enforcement-dominated mess that they were in 1983 when the Reagan Administration created EOIR to provide at least some actual and apparent separation between prosecutorial and judicial functions.
The only solution is an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court. Until that happens, failure, inefficiency, ands unfairness will continue to plague the immigration Court system.
Eventually, the Article III reviewing courts are going to have to decide whether 1) to simply put the Constitution and their judicial oaths in the drawer and give the Executive a “free pass” on immigration; or 2) do their duty, stop the train, and essentially take over the administration of the immigration Courts by ordering Immigration Judges and the BIA to conform to certain basic due process requirements or face the prospect of having almost every Petition for Review returned for a “redo.” If you think the backlog is bad now, wait till that happens.
At this point, I hope for #2, but see #1 as a distinct possibility, particularly as Trump continues to co-opt the Article III judiciary with judges for whom loyalty to Trump and his agenda appears a more important qualification that a reputation for scholarship, legal excellence, collegiality, impartiality, and fairness.
I also found the comments of my former colleague Judge (Retired) Andrew Arthur somewhat puzzling. If you are a judge in a courtroom actually trying to carry out your constitutional duty to provide due process and fairness; the DHS is represented by an experienced Assistant Chief Counsel; and you have an unrepresented kid who is scared to return his or her home country, who is going to be that child’s advocate if not the Immigration Judge?
Rather than bogus guidelines, the Administration should be doing the right thing and the smart thing — working with the private bar to insure that cases involving claims for asylum and other protection are docketed and scheduled in a manner that insures that each applicant will have reasonable access to pro bono or low bono counsel before filing the Form I-589 for asylum.
To take the most obvious example, Jennifer Podkul, Policy Director of Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND), and Wendy Young, Executive Director of KIND are as smart as any lawyers around. They want the Immigration Court system to succeed in a fair and efficient manner. They have spent more time thinking about the problems of kids in Immigraton Court and how to solve them than any individual or group of individuals now in the US. Government.
So, instead of “trashing” immigration lawyers, why don’t Sessions and his subordinates at DOJ sit down with Young, Podkul, and some of their other high-powered NGO colleagues, and Judge Marks and the NAIJ and work out a solutionfor getting kids through the Immigraton Court system in a fair manner consistent with Due Process? Why is Sessions so afraid to venture outside of his little “restrictionist world” in trying to solve problems?
But, unfortunately, this Administration is much more interested in forcing failure on the system and then pointing fingers at the victims, that is, the migrants seeking justice, than it is in achieving the real reformsnecessary to get our U.S. Immigration Courts operating in a fair, impartial, and efficient manner, consistent with the law and Constitutional Due Process.
“The Trump administration is considering measures to halt a surge of Central American families and unaccompanied minors coming across the Mexican border, including a proposal to separate parents from their children, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.
These measures, described on the condition of anonymity because they have not been publicly disclosed, would also crack down on migrants living in the United States illegally who send for their children. That aspect of the effort would use data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to target parents for deportation after they attempt to regain custody of their children from government shelters.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has previously considered some of these proposals, but there is renewed urgency within the administration to address an abrupt reversal of what had been a sharp decline in illegal immigration since Trump took office in January.
In November, U.S. agents took into custody 7,018 families, or “family units,” along the border with Mexico, a 45 percent increase over the previous month, the latest DHS statistics show. The number of “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, was up 26 percent.
Children’s shelters operated by HHS are at maximum capacity or “dangerously close to it,” an official from the agency said. Overall, the number of migrants detained last month along the Mexico border, 39,006, was the highest monthly total since Trump became president, according to DHS figures.
In a small city in Upstate New York, ICE arrests drive migrants into hiding
(Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)
The proposals, which have been presented for approval to new DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, were developed by career officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other DHS agencies, administration officials said.
Tyler Houlton, a DHS spokesman, confirmed the agency has “reviewed procedural, policy, regulatory and legislative changes” to deter migrants. Without giving further details, he said some of the measures “have been approved,” and DHS is working with other federal agencies “to implement them in the near future.”
“The administration is committed to using all legal tools at its disposal to secure our nation’s borders, and as a result we are continuing to review additional policy options,” Houlton said.
The most contentious proposal — to separate families in detention — would keep adults in federal custody while sending their children to HHS shelters. This was floated in March by then-Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, who is now White House chief of staff. He told CNN at the time that the children would be “well cared for as we deal with their parents.”
Kelly did not move forward with the plan, in part because of the backlash it triggered, administration officials said, and also because illegal migration had plunged to historic lows.
Trump administration officials described the measures as unpalatable but necessarily tough policy options to discourage Central American families from embarking on the long, dangerous journey to the border — or hiring smugglers to bring their children north.
In southern Texas, a rancher explains why he supports Trump but not the wall.
(Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)
“People aren’t going to stop coming unless there are consequences to illegal entry,” one DHS official said.
Migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras represent the largest share of families and children taken into U.S. custody along the border, with many telling border agents that they fear for their lives if sent back to their home countries. The three nations, known as the “Northern Triangle” of Central America, are crippled by gang violence and homicide rates that are among the world’s highest.
Trump administration officials say Central American migrants and the paid smugglers who bring them to the border shamelessly exploit Americans’ compassion, entering the United States illegally and gaming the asylum process.
If a migrant’s stated fear of being sent home is considered “credible,” they enter an asylum process that may take years to adjudicate, and the flood of such petitions in recent years has worsened the backlog of more than 600,000 cases pending in U.S. immigration courts.
Asylum seekers are typically issued work permits while they wait for the process to play out, and when their rejected appeals are exhausted, they often ignore court orders to leave the United States, choosing to remain in the country illegally.
The Trump administration wants to significantly expand immigration detention capacity, and hire more judges and expedite asylum cases to stop migrants from taking advantage of “loopholes” in the asylum process.
The proposal to separate parents from their children is viewed by the agency as a more immediate tool to halt the latest border surge.
DHS has three family detention centers — two in Texas, one in Pennsylvania — with about 2,200 beds available. But legal restrictions on its ability to detain children mean that families are typically given a court date and released from detention not long after they arrive. In November, the three detention centers reached their highest occupancy levels for the year, and they remain near maximum capacity, officials said.
“The parents that would undertake this perilous journey to the United States would be less likely to do it if they knew they would be separated from their kids,” said Andrew R. Arthur, a resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks to reduce immigration. A former U.S. immigration judge and Republican congressional policy staffer, he called it “a reasonable step to take.”
“It might seem heartless, but it’s more heartless to give them the illusion they’re going to be able to enter the United States freely by hiring a smuggler to come here, because the dangers associated with smuggling along the southwest border are real,” Arthur said.
The unaccompanied minors are typically seeking to reunite with a parent already living illegally in the United States. By law, migrants under age 18 who arrived without a parent must be turned over to HHS within 72 hours of being taken into DHS custody. The shelters where they are housed are designed to be more like boarding schools than grim detention centers.
The minors are placed in the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which seeks to identify an adult sponsor who can take custody of them.
The process takes about six weeks on average, HHS officials say. “It’s a little-known fact that over half of those who enter illegally are placed with a parent already in the United States,” ACF spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said.
The parents, or any other adult seeking to take custody of a child, must submit to an extensive background check that includes information about their immigration status. But administration officials say that information is neither checked against DHS biometric data nor shared with ICE for potential enforcement purposes. The new DHS proposals under consideration would change that.
Military, defense and security at home and abroad.
If children are forcefully separated from their mothers and fathers, or if parents know they could be arrested or targeted for trying to reunite with their children, migrant advocates say the U.S. government will be inflicting “devastating” trauma on families fleeing Central America because they feel their lives are at risk.
“These measures will only drive families who are vulnerable to exploitation further into the hands of traffickers and smugglers,” said Greg Chen, director of government relations of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“These are families that have no other choice for their survival,” he said.”
“Come on, man” clueless claim:
“The parents that would undertake this perilous journey to the United States would be less likely to do it if they knew they would be separated from their kids.”
The hard truth:
“These are families that have no other choice for their survival.”
The Non-White Nationalist reality:
We could absorb all of the “good guys” fleeing from gang violence in the Northern Triangle without any long-term adverse effects; in fact, it would likely help us prosper as a nation, and would be far more “cost-effective” than the various failing “strategies” we now employ, and have employed in the past, in a vain and counterproductive attempt to prevent the inevitable.
I wouldn’t necessarily give everyone a “Green Card” right off the bat. But, we should have a vastly expanded TPS program for the Northern Triangle, keeping open the possibility of eventually issuing everyone who wants to stay and who has demonstrated payment of taxes (something that even native born GOP rich guys, and most notably the Trumpster himself, hate to do) and no serious crimes to eventually qualify for the Green Card.
Responding to several recent “hate speeches” by Attorney General Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, EOIR issued a new memorandum basically telling U.S. immigration Judges to revise their thinking and look for any way possible to “shaft” unaccompanied minors fleeing for their lives and asserting claims for protection under U.S. laws.
The memorandum from Chief U.S. mmigration Judge Marybeth Keller, dated Dec. 21, 2017, is available in full at this link:
However, because it is drafted in dense bureaucratic doublespeak with a just a touch of “lip service” to the law, I will give you the “high points” as they would appear to most Immigration Judges:
The Attorney General hates UACS, and so should you if you want to keep your job.
While this Administration works on its announced plans to strip UACS of all statutory and Constitutional rights, you must always look for ways to effectively eliminate such “false rights” administratively in advance of any changes in the law.
Always look for ways to find that someone previously determined by DHS or the ORR to be a “UAC” is no longer, or never should have been, entitled to UAC benefits.
The “best interests of the child” should NOT be an important consideration in an Immigration Court proceeding involving a UAC.
Conversely, the “best interests of the Administration” should generally be given conclusive weight.
Never let considerations of human empathy, misplaced kindness, false compassion, common sense, decency, or any other human emotion lead you to give a break or the benefit of the doubt to a UAC.
Is is permissible, however, to create a false sense of informality and friendliness in your courtroom, so long as it doesn’t result in a grant of any type of protection or relief to the UAC. (Indeed, lulling a UAC into a false sense of comfort or security can be an effective strategy for insuring that he or she will not attempt to find a lawyer and will sign away or waive any rights.)
Remember that no matter how young, immature, discombobulated, confused, inarticulate, traumatized, or scared a UAC might be, he or she is NEVER entitled to appointed counsel or to any meaningful help from you in stating or supporting a claim for protection.
While all DHS requests should generally be treated as “priorities,” the only request from a UAC or his or her representative that should receive “priority” consideration is a request for immediate voluntary departure from the US. (You should never hesitate to grant such a request even if it appears to be the product of duress or against the UAC’s best interests.)
A good way to overcome the unfortunate tendency of some reviewing courts to find testimony of UACS “credible”” is to conclude that even if credible and facially sufficient to establish a claim for relief, the UAC’S testimony is “too generalized” or “not sufficiently detailed” (or any other kind of meaningless legal jargon you might come up with) to satisfy the “burden of proof” for protection.
Your main responsibility as an Immigration Judge, and the one for which you will be held accountable, is to ferret out and report fraud, not to insure fairness or due process for the UAC.
In discharging your duties as an Immigration Judge, you must always give primacy to the enforcement priorities of the Administration (including the overriding objective of deterrence and how it is advanced by REMOVAl orders, not relief) and the DHS over any legal claims advanced by a UAC.
You should presume that all UACS and particularly any with “dirty” attorneys representing them are “fraudsters” unless and until otherwise established beyond a reasonable doubt.
While it is permissible to present yourself to the public, and particularly to any reviewing courts Congressional, or media representatives as a “judge of a full due process court,” for all other purposes, you should always remember that you are a mere subordinate of the Attorney General, sworn to carry out his policies, and never, under any circumstances, should you consider yourself to be a “real judge” exercising independent judgement.
If you have any questions about this memorandum, please consult your ACIJ (who is specially trained to help you maximize final removals orders) rather than your conscience.
Remember: “When In Doubt, Kick ‘Em Out!”
There was a time in the (seemingly now distant) past when children and other vulnerable individuals were considered appropriate for “special humanitarian consideration,” and treatment. Now, they are “special targets” for Gonzo and his White Nationalist storm troopers: “Fish in a barrel,” “easy numbers, “low hanging fruit,” “roadkill.”
I was particularly impressed (not necessarily favorably) by the straightforward exhortation for the Immigration Court to establish itself as perhaps the only court in the America where the widely accepted principle of “the best interests of the child” is specifically to be given short shrift.
On the other hand, you should think about the possibility that some day you’ll get the question “What did you do during Trump’s War on America, Mommy (or Daddy)?” Do you really want to say: “I stood by and watched Gonzo Apocalypto abuse, harm, and in some cases kill, helpless children?” We all have choices to make!